It was a quiet rainy day at the penguin hospital but for the greeting I got as I arrived at Katiki Point — loud and raucous calls from two yellow-eyed penguins hanging out at the hospital under the lighthouse.
They weren’t patients, just wild and healthy visitors that had ventured through a hole in the fence to pay a visit to the recuperating penguins stuck in their pens. If it was hospital visiting hours, human hospital decorum did not apply. The reason for their Maori name, Hoiho, (noisy shouter) was quite apparent.
It’s a good time of year for healthy penguins; the breeding season is over, the chicks have fledged, and four weeks of fasting during the moult is behind them. It’s time to relax and explore. Rosalie says the younger penguins sow their wild oats this time of year, and by the sound of them this morning I’d say that was a fair assessment.
I was delighted to see that Rosalie had saved a microchip for me to photograph (a chance to use my favourite macro lens!). Last week with the help of DoC workers, she and Wayne micro-chipped ten penguins before their release, a first for the hospital.
The tiny device, now the preferred method for penguin identification, is placed under the skin behind the penguin’s neck. The old flipper bands have been linked to a lower survival rate in many penguin species (see The potential costs of flipper-bands to penguins) and sometimes they can be difficult to read. Many of the banded penguins have had bands since they learned to swim, so they are not removed unless there is something wrong with the band or the flipper near the band.
Although there are almost double the number of penguins in hospital now than would normally be there this time of year, it’s a lot more relaxed than it was a few weeks ago when there were 38 penguins in hospital, an all time high. I am looking forward to recording stories from Rosalie for the blog when there are only a few penguins in hospital after winter settles in.
Stay tuned for stories about Diesel and Lady Diesel…coming soon.